The Big Sur Food and Wine Festival is a giving organization that holds events to promote Big Sur as a culinary destination, supporting the overall health, character and vitality of the Big Sur community. Its intention is to stimulate the local economy and donate a large portion of event proceeds to support local nonprofits that benefit Health, Safety, Education and Arts. In addition, it gives scholarships to talented Big Sur residents who would greatly benefit themselves and the community through wine and/or culinary education.
The Big Sur Food & Wine Festival was founded in 2009 by Toby-Rowland Jones. After contributing his wine event management talents to the Big Sur Jazz Fest, the Masters of Food & Wine, the Central Coast Classic and many other wine events, Toby felt it was time to create an event that blended fine food and wine with Big Sur character. Together he and a committee of like-minded friends brought the idea into fruition in less than a year while accomplishing the festival’s mission.
Though the event is epicurean in nature by present day standards, its true nature is summed up by Epicurus himself, “Of all the means to ensure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.”
Meet the Team
Toby Rowland-Jones has a long history in wine event management. From the Central Coast Wine Classic, Masters of Food and Wine, to the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta, he’s done it all, and it seems, to him, sometimes a bit more “At every turn, there’s something to think of or get involved in – I just enjoy the creative aspect of working with people on amazing ideas, and seeing them to fruition.” At home, Toby spent 16 years as a volunteer firefighter, sat on the founding board for the Henry Miller Library, and organizes fundraisers for the Big Sur community. Toby loves the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival and what it brings to the community. “Great friends have come together to help with this remarkable event. I could not be more grateful for their support, hard work and dedication. This festival shows everyone that community outreach is still viable and more valid than ever before.”
Big Sur native Aengus Wagner moved back to Big Sur in the summer of ’91 and never left. He helped run the Big Sur Jazzfest for 8 years, until ’03. In 2000, he met Karen MacNeil through famed wine maker and friend Gary Pisoni. There laid the grounds for total inspiration in the world of wine. Their passions got him. Aengus works at Nepenthe, where he received much education about wine and service. Now, with the Festival team, he’s pleased to raise needed funds for the community through friendships fostered over years of of making friends as he goes about his daily life. These talented winemakers, chefs and volunteers all seem to have the same inspiration to celebrate the good life here in our “town.”
With hospitality career and wine enthusiast parents, it’s no wonder that Matt Peterson has been in the wine industry for more than eight years; and four of those as a proud resident of Big Sur. Matt began his wine industry career as a sales rep for Wine Warehouse and then moved on to J&L Wines, a major sponsor of the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival. He is currently Monterey County’s representative for Swirl Wine Brokers, Martine’s Wines and Wine Wise, as well as Sommelier at the fabulous Pacific’s Edge Restaurant at the Highlands Inn in Carmel.
FOY EVENTS JOINS THE TEAM THIS YEAR!
Kelli Foy ~ Alchemist
Kelli brings her love of events and hospitality and over 25 years of event planning experience to our beloved Festival. Her management career began in college when she ran the National Association of Hospitality and Home Economics AND her local Utah chapter. This began her love of complexity that events offer. Spring-boarding into business administration and marketing, the natural progression was to open her own hospitality business! Event Marketing and Management is her focus, handling groups of 2 – 15,000. Currently, she owns FOY Events which she and her niece Nichole Foy run together.
Joining the family business last year, Nichole’s hospitality, restaurant management, customer service and baking experience has found her aprofessional home. Nichole enjoys working and loves giving her all. She has an eye for detail and works hard for perfection. 110 percent, just like Foy Events strives to provide for your event.
Elsa ~ Harmonic Converger
Elsa Rivera is a Healthcare and International Business Management Consultant who puts her heart into community service events and other fun projects. Her networking brings out the best in people who truly want to champion their passion, vision and creativity. She has served as a committee member for The Big Sur Fashion Show and organizer for the show’s Pre-Show and After Party. Her love of Big Sur as an extended part of her family, her passion for dance, the arts, great food and wine, inspires her to be a connecting force for the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival.
Alicia Hahn ~ Band Leader
Alicia Hahn has always loved Big Sur, and in 1993 moved here from her hometown of Half Moon Bay. From a nearly 20-year career at Nepenthe and becoming a Certified Wine Professional at the CIA in Napa Valley, to gathering with friends to enjoy the bounty of fine foods and wines the Central Coast has to offer, this bon vivant shows us all how to lead a true Epicurean lifestyle.
Peggy Giles ~ Transportation Queen and “Go to Girl”
Peggy Giles arrived in Big Sur in 1984, the year of the Rat Creek Fire. Impressed by community spirit and dedication to help each other, Peggy spent the next 25 years working, living and raising a family in Big Sur. During that time, other fires, road slides and disasters have come to pass; still the Big Sur community rises up to help those in need, and Peggy has always stepped forward quietly and with complete dedication. She contributes her talents to the Festival as it too demonstrates the spirit of community services. Here’s our Go to Girl, shuckin’ oysters at Hog Island!
Lisa Haas ~ Artistic Coordinator
Lisa Haas brings to Big Sur a unique perspective as an artist and creative thinker. Lisa has always had a deep love of Big Sur. As an owner of a successful faux finish and design business, Lisa Haas Design, Lisa brings a refreshing energy to our crew with her perspectives of design for not just the look of the Festival, website and overall vision of the organization. When the rains come, you’ll find Lisa in the hills looking for mushrooms to add to her repertoire as a culinary genius. Where you see decorative creativity and a crew of people running around putting up signs and lights and fabulous decorations, you know Lisa will be in the midst of it all.
With more than half his life spent happily in the hospitality industry, Craig brings deep experience and quiet confidence in all aspects of Food and Beverage to the Festival. He has been on the Board of Advisors since the festival began and has enthusiastically joined the Executive Committee this year. Craig spends most of his year in the beautiful surrounds of North Lake Tahoe. As to philosophy: “We could get hit by a bus tomorrow; let’s drink it today.”
Sarah Kabat – Sommelier Coordinator
Professionally and personally in love with the art of wine, hospitality and all things epicurean, Sarah prides us with her professional demeanor, incredible attention to detail and her 13 years experience in restaurant hospitality. Presently Sarah is a Manager & Sommelier at the famed Sierra Mar Restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn. We are grateful and delighted to have her on-board!
Jennifer Haydu is a movement artist, instructor and owner of EVOLUTION studio in Pacific Grove. For twenty years she has been teaching, performing, and collaborating with others in the fields of dance, heath and healing artists. She works with clients of all ages, consults with businesses on employee wellness programs, and teaches yoga, dance and movement arts in schools. Jennifer also hosts a variety of workshops and trainings at her studio in Pacific Grove. In addition, she shares her gifts of healing touch through Thai Massage and Acroyoga. Jennifer spearheaded the successful grassroots movement to open the Pacific Grove Farmers Market. She consults and collaborates with the creators of the Independent Market Place and Happy Girl Kitchen, as well as the premier food and wine events in Monterey. Her favorite is the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival (of course!), and she is delighted to be part of the amazing team creating this uniquely delicious event.